US clears $2.1 billion sale of naval patrol aircraft to India (Lead)

March 17th, 2009 - 7:41 pm ICT by IANS  

F-16 Washington, March 17 (IANS) In what is said to be the largest US arms transfer to India to date, the US government has cleared a $2.1 billion sale to India of eight Boeing Co P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, according to a media report.
The Indian navy was the first international customer for the P-8, a long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

The State Department told the US Congress March 12 that it would license the direct commercial sale having factored in “political, military, economic, human rights and arms control considerations,” the Washington Post reported Monday.

The report cited Boeing as saying it can operate effectively over land or water while performing anti-submarine warfare; search and rescue; maritime interdiction; and long-range intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance.

India chose it over several rivals, including EADS Airbus A319, it said citing, an online aviation-trade publication.

Boeing has said it would deliver the first P-8I within 48 months of a contract signing, and the remaining seven by 2015. Derived from Boeing’s commercial 737 airframe, it is similar to the P-8A Poseidon that Boeing is developing for the US Navy.

In January 2008, Washington and New Delhi sealed India’s previous largest US arms purchase — six Lockheed Martin Corp C-130J Super Hercules military transport planes valued at about $1 billion, including related gear, training and spares.

Boeing’s P-8I contract is with the Indian Defence Ministry. The sale includes associated support equipment, spares, training and logistical support through June 2019, the State Department said.

It said direct arms-trade “offsets” were expected to include engineering service, manufacturing and integrated logistics-support projects totalling $641.3 million, the report said.

Lockheed and Boeing, respectively the Pentagon’s No. 1 and No. 2 suppliers by sales, are among warplane makers vying to sell India 126 new multi-role fighters in a deal that could be worth more than $10 billion.

Boeing is offering its F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. Lockheed is pitching its F-16. They are competing with warplanes built in Russia, France, Sweden and by a European consortium.

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